Thursday, February 28, 2013

Healthy living is about more than what you eat!

Before: It's easy to toss stuff aside to deal with later, right?
As I've walked this road and grown in this journey, I've taken a lot of deep, introspective looks into my life. Part of that has been dealing with my home. As some of you who have read my blog in the past know that I have issues with clutter. To put it bluntly, I live at the step just before you get on TV with a camera crew and a bunch of junk trucks at the house while you scream at people for touching your stuff.

So I'm trying to battle these tendencies, and beat back the clutter. Because taking care of my body in the *inside* isn't enough. I have to take care of it on the outside, too. My home is a reflection of my inner being, and I'm no longer depressed, carrying too much dead weight, and unmotivated to clean.

But I have years worth of clutter to work through. And I'm doing it alone; my girls are too small to be of much  help (though they enthusiastically try, they end up making more work.) My husband is too sick and wrapped up in his own issues to be of much use, either. I could scream and nag and yell, or I can just do it and hope he joins in.

So I've made it a goal each day to tackle one trouble spot in the house. There's a lot, so this'll take a while. ;) But I am making progress. Last week, I spent 3 1/2 hours doing dishes. We now have a clean kitchen!

Then, I tackled a shelf that was cluttered from a previous cleanup attempt elsewhere. It's now neat and tidy.

I organized the headboard of my bed, which was a rickety stack of half-read paperbacks, into a neat and organized shelf uncluttered with random junk.

I also attacked a box of clothes that had sat untouched for months... Everything in it went into a drawer or a donation bag.

Today I got a wild hair... I was feeling really motivated, so I folded all the laundry my husband washed and didn't fold. Then, I cleaned up the pile in the hallway by his desk that was creeping along the floor and becoming a hazard. Finally, I called my husband and asked if he minded me cleaning up his desk.

He gave me the green light, and I did.

So, a full bag of donation clothes, three trashbags, and a lot of 409 later, the  hall spot is clean so the girls can hang up their book bags and coats without leaning over junk, and he actually HAS a desk, instead of a teetering pile of papers. I didn't mind helping him with that, since it contained a lot of my stuff from before I got the dining room cleared out and set up a work station.

This is also my way of trying to help his recovery. You see, the clutter in our home is constant stress and cognitive dissonance. It triggers unhealthy reactions in both of us. Anger, binging, even drinking (in his case.) I can't tell you how often I've thrown a temper tantrum over the clutter and then reached for something in the fridge to compensate.

You see, the same principles that have applied to my growth in healthy living can be applied in all aspects of my life. Baby steps! I can't clean this whole house at once... it's too much for one person, I can't afford a personal organizer, and it's not bad enough to end up on TV. ;) So, I take it in bite-sized chunks, the way I did when I started trying to lose weight.

We get SO wrapped up in all or nothing. We look at the sum-total of what we have to do, and we get discouraged. I've been there! You see, I've lost entire rooms to this clutter problem. I've stood there, looked around the house, and couldn't fathom how I'd ever do it. I've stared at my fat in the mirror naked and turned away, discouraged because I can't make it disappear, right now.

But you know something? I can focus on the next pound. I can pick up those socks over there. I can make it a habit to take something to the trash every time I get up from my desk. I can clear a 3 x 3 space in my home.

I've found that like clutter, clean spreads. If you make a nice, neat space, you're more likely to pick up the pile of papers beside it. This is the principle behind clean-living guru Flylady's program, too. You start with a shiny sink, and magically, the dishes tend to get done because you want to keep that sink shiny. Then you wipe the counter, because who wants a dirty counter next to a shiny sink? And well, you might as well wipe the stove too.

And the floors need mopping.

Which takes you to the dining room. Better empty that trash.

Healthy living is the same. What's the point of eating whole wheat spagetti if you're going to load it down with two pounds of cheese? (Guilty!) So you eat a little less cheese. You put a little less sugar in your coffee. You eat another vegetable or two instead of second helpings of fried chicken.

After: Days of cleanup and countless trash bags later.
And suddenly, you're 25 pounds lighter, your pants are loose enough you need to use a belt hole you've never used before, you can walk through your house without tripping, and you're going to bed with a smile on your face.

Am I done yet? Not by a long shot. I have a lot of growth ahead of me. A lot of weight loss. A lot of cleaning.

But I know I CAN do it, because I AM doing it.

Oh, and my husband? He's helping too. ;) He's started picking up things he finds here and there... and he's been helping with the dishes. And making salads for dinner.

We can do this. Together.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Diet is nice, but exercise?

So I've figured out one of the reasons I've struggled to lose weight lately.

It's exercise.

Now, to be clear, I have lost weight; I just tend to lose it, gain it, and back again. My diet is mostly in tune, but I have a tendency to eat high.


Because I'm simply not satiated on less. I will never be able to function on 1200-1500 calories. My current range is 1400-1700 or so. This suits me, for the most part, but without exercise, I have to eat at the bottom of the range to do more than just maintain (which is what I've done since my 3 lb loss. It has stayed off, though!)

The secret, for me, is exercise. With exercise, I can eat more. When I work out, I like the balls-to-the-wall classes, like kickboxing. The more I exercise, the more I can eat! I am pretty good at getting lots of protein, so I don't need massive quantities.

Exercise has more benefits than an increased calorie range, though.

When I exercise, my moods are SO much better. I'll ride the high from a tough class for at least a day, and just feel fantastic. I ache less, and my arthritis bothers me less.

I understand that not everyone can join a gym. Not everyone has to. Maybe your exercise of choice is a video, or even a walk. I don't really think the kind of exercise you do is nearly as important as enjoying the exercise you do.

One critical component of exercise is strength training; without it, your program is incomplete, and you're abandoning the most important thing you can do. Strength training boosts your metabolism, and helps you look and feel better in the skin you're in. I love to lift weights, although I do keep a set of resistance bands at home. Not to mention, if you're not strength training, as much as 25% of your weight loss can come from lean muscle... which *drops* your metabolism. To preserve it, you need to hit the weights! (Or body weight exercises, or resistance bands. You get the idea.)

The point is, while you can lose weight by diet alone... it's so much harder. Exercise provides more than just weight loss benefits... it has incalculable benefits inside and outside of your body.

Best of all? It gets you away from this computer. ;)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Good, better, best?

What should you be eating to get fit?

So often people ask "Is this healthy?" or "Should I eat this or this?"

I say you don't have to have the best to be healthy, lose weight, and get fit.

Running is one of the best calorie burners around, minute for minute. It's cheap, it can be done anywhere, and it scorches calories like nobody's business.

But if you can't run, or hate running, what good does it do you? So, when you have a choice between nothing, running, and something, you go for something. A walk you will do just as well. Because what matters isn't how many calories you burn in an hour, but how many calories you eat over the course of a week, and you adjust that number anyway. Your 1 lb per week will come off the same if you burn more and eat more, or burn less and eat less.

Whole grain bread is better than whole wheat bread. But if you hate the taste of whole grain bread, and won't eat it, what good does it do you? I would rather eat sawdust than your average loaf of "whole grain" bread. I can't stand the texture. Is Nature's Own Honey Wheat the absolute best thing for my body? No, it's not. There are tons of brands that are healthier, lower calorie, have more fiber, more whole grains, or whatever.

But I like the taste, it's far better than enriched white bread, and my husband and kids will eat it without complaint.

If I bring in a loaf of whole grain, it molds.

Black beans are all the rage these days, and are in all kinds of "healthy" dishes, used as replacements in all sorts of "fake out" meals that trick you into thinking you're getting something your'e not. That's all well and good, but I happen to HATE black beans! So, which is better... a black bean burger that turns my stomach, or a lean ground beef patty that has my mouth watering?

Is organic better for your body and environment? Absolutely. No one needs pesticides, and research has shown the antibiotics in commercially produced meat aren't good for any of us. But when organically grown meat is $1 or more per pound more than regular, it may not be a good choice for you. I could buy all organic, but my food bill would double, which would make my available budget less, and at the end of the month, we'd be eating ramen noodles and mac and cheese, instead of lean meats and fresh veggies.

Best isn't always better, and good is sometimes just fine. So don't be bound by what is "best", "healthiest", or aim for what's absolutely perfect.

Work with your budget, your tastes, your needs, and don't beat yourself up for not being a perfect vegan health nut who only shops at specialty locally grown farmer's markets and whole food stores.

Start where you are. Don't insist on perfection. Work with what you have, what you like.

After all, that organically grown handmade tofu and wheatgrass veggie burger made only from fresh, whole ingredients is useless if it tastes like cardboard and your family won't eat it.

Photo courtesy of Newbirth35

Friday, February 1, 2013

You are what you eat?

So I just watched a documentary on Netflix. It's called Hungry for Change. Before it got to the end and devolved into a juicing and detox infomercial (seriously, I hate that stuff... if I want to eat more fruits and vegetables, I will eat more fruits and vegetables, nutrients and fiber intact, and you can't detox anyway. Your body doesn't work that way, and there is NO credible science that they work.) it was actually very enlightening and intelligent.

One of the things they talked about constantly was how our bodies get effectively addicted to sugar, because sugar is in EVERYTHING. If you're a big white bread eater, that gets basically metabolized right into sugar, too.

This made a lot of sense to me. I know that when I eat simple carbs, I STAY hungry... I can't get enough. Eat chinese food with lots of pasta or rice, or italian with pasta, or mexican with flour tortillas, and I'll be hungry again in an hour... no matter how much I ate.

I'm not a low-carber. I don't endorse the diets. I'm sure they work for some people, but I'm not interested in eliminating nutrients, nor reducing them. Carbs are not the devil. I like carbs. A LOT! In fact, carbs are actually the body's preferred quick fuel source. There's a reason distance runners carbo-load before marathons! The problem comes when we eat overly refined carbs that metabolize straight into sugar when we eat them, and eat more than our bodies burn, so it gets stored right away as fat. And leaves the body starving for nutrition while it's full from the calorie overload you just gave it. High in calories, low in nutrition.

I recently saw a person on SP who was complaining about gaining weight in spite of eating in her calorie ranges. I peeked at her trackers, and was stunned to find that yes, she's eating between 1200-1550 calories a day, but 30-50% of that was all candy and sweets! Trips to Starbucks, candy for lunch... its no wonder she isn't losing! All calories are not created equal. 100 calories of broccoli is so much you can't finish it, and it's packed with vitamins and minerals that keep you full and healthy. 100 calories of chocolate is gone in a flash, and leaves you hungry and wanting more. If you want your body to be healthy, you have to fuel it properly.

I think what I DO need to do is start focusing on the quality of my foods. I'm already moving in that direction. I eat whole grains instead of refined white stuff. Whole wheat bread, pasta, etc. I'm trying to add more veggies; I'm up to 5-6 servings of vegetables a day... up from 0-2.

I'm going to focus more on eating healthy and clean. Whole foods, made-from-scratch seasonings and such. Part of the reason I have such a sodium problem is because I tend to easy to make kits and prepackaged stuff, frozen prepared foods (like pre-breaded chicken) and stuff to heat and eat.

So I think my project for the next month is to make as much of the food I eat as possible to not have a nutrition label.  Fruits, veggies, and meats from the outside perimeter of the store. I'm going to aim to reduce my sugar intake. I'm not going for perfection here, I'm just going to start adding this stuff gradually.

Today I already started down that road; dinner consisted of fajitas with fresh-cut bell peppers and onions, with chicken breasts. The kids both got a helping of raw bell peppers and onions. While at the grocery store, we took a look at some cereal. The two boxes I picked up were strawberry mini wheats, and Special K with strawberries.

On the box of strawberry mini wheats? No mention of strawberries. There's a long laundry list of long, unpronounceable chemical names, but no strawberries in it. Mmmm, it does have sorbitol, though!

The Special K? Rice. Whole grain wheat. sugar, wheat bran, strawberries, brown sugar, wheat fiber, less than 2% salt, and malt flavoring.

This is the natural progression for me. I'm already aiming, instead of "I can't have it but I want it" for "I can have it but I don't want it." I don't deny myself anything, but as I've learned more about
what's in my food, how many calories things "cost", that they just aren't appealing. I am resolving to read those labels, and choose things that have the fewest. While eating some "reduced sugar" instant oatmeal today, I looked at the label in horror to find a list of some 20+ ingredients, including artificial sweeteners and flavorings.

So I threw it away, and bought a container of instant oatmeal. Ingredient list: Oats. I can add my own brown sugar and maple syrup if I want it.

I had chips with dinner for the first time in a month, and it just... wasn't good. I didn't even finish them. I've gotten to where I always have a bag of carrots and broccoli in the fridge for easy snacking. I just need to expand my options. Instead of grabbing an msg-laden fajita seasoning mix, I need to make my own. I have dozens of cookbooks I never use. I just need to stop being lazy, and start doing what is good for my family, and for me.

Besides, it's hella cheaper than going out to eat all the time.